Shelby County

Shelby County

Shelby County was formed in 1819 from Indian lands

(Private Acts of Tennessee 1819, Chapter 146)

The county seat is Memphis.


Selected Published County Histories
  • Along the Old Stage-coach Road: Morning Sun and Brunswick, Shelby County, Tennessee (Davies-Rodgers, 1990) [name index]
  • Biography of a River Town; Memphis: Its Heroic Age (Capers, 1939) [name index]*
  • Brief History of Memphis (Dowdy, 2011) [name index]
  • Builders of the Pyramid; The Story of Shelby County: Its Resources and Developments (Williams, 1897)*
  • Cordova (Sawyer & Hooker, 2013)
  • Early Memphis and its River Rivals (Williams, 1968)*
  • Elmwood Cemetery (McCollum, 2016)
  • Founding of Memphis, 1818-1820 (Roper, 1970) [name index]*
  • Germantown [Images of America] (Hall, 2003)*
  • Goodspeed's History of Hamilton, Knox, and Shelby Counties of Tennessee (Goodspeed, 1974)*
  • Hidden History of Memphis (Dowdy, 2010)
  • Historic Shelby County: An Illustrated History (Harkins, 2008) [name index]
  • History of the City of Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Citizens [2 vols.] (Keating & Vedder, 1888) [name index in vol. 2]*
  • History of the City of Memphis, Being a Compilation of the Most Important Documents and Historical Events ... Also, the "Old Times papers" (Davis, 1972) [name index]*
  • Illustrated History of the People and Towns of Northeast Shelby County and South Central Tipton County: Salem, Portersville, Idaville, Kerrville, Armourtown, Bethel, Tipton, Mudville, Macedonia, Gratitude, Barretville, and Rosemark, Tennessee (McCalla, 2010) [name index]
  • Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis kneel-ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation (Haynes, 2012) [name index]
  • Memphis, 1800-1900 [3 vols.] (Ornelas-Struve, 1982)*
  • Memphis a Pictorial History (Plunkett, 1976)
  • Memphis and the Super Flood of 1937: High Water Blues (O'Daniel, 2010)
  • Memphis Down in Dixie (McIlwaine, 1948) [name index]*
  • Memphis in Black and White (Bond and Sherman, 2003) [name index]*
  • Memphis Memoirs (Coppock, 1980) [name index]
  • Metropolis of the American Nile: Memphis and Shelby County (Harkins, 1991) [name index]*
  • Millington [Images of America] (Hall, 2012)
  • Reversal of Fortune: Germantown, Tennessee, During the Civil War Era  (Browder, 2015) [name index]
  • Settlers of Shelby County, Tennessee and Adjoining Counties (Cargill & Connelly, 1989) [surname index]
  • Shelby County [Images of America] (Dye, 2005)
  • Standard History of Memphis, Tennessee: From a Study of the Original Sources (Young, 1974) [name index]
  • Tracks to the Past: A Pictorial History of Millington, North Shelby County, and South Tipton County (The Millington Star , 1997)  
  • When the Levee Breaks: Memphis and the Mississippi Valley Flood of 1927 (O'Daniel, 2013) [name index]
  • 175 Moments: An Extraordinary Glimpse of 175 Years of Life in Memphis From the Staff of The Commercial Appeal (The Commercial Appeal, 2016)


Published Local Records
  • 1837 Shelby County, Tennessee Tax List (Douthat, 2002) [name index]*
  • 1880 Census, Shelby Co. Tennessee (Sistler, 2003) [alphabetical by head of household]*
  • Compilation of Acts of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee Relating to Shelby County (1960) [subject index]*
  • Court Minutes, [vol. 3 1830-1833 (in 2 pts.); vol. 4 1833-1843 (in 3 pts.); vol. 5 1843-1848 (in 3 pts.); vol. 6 1848-1851 (in 3 pts.)] (WPA, 1941-1942) [case index in vol. 3, pt. 1; name index in vol. 4 pt. 1, vol. 5 pt. 1 and vol. 6 pt. 1]
  • Funeral Home Records, Memphis, Tennessee, 1866-1915 [9 vols.] (Memphis and Shelby County Public Library and Information Center, 1994?) [alphabetical]
  • Gravestone Inscriptions from Shelby County, Tennessee Cemeteries [3 vols.] (Elam & Inabinet, 1971-1974) [name index in vol. 1 and 2; surname index in vol. 3]*
  • Index to Shelby County Marriages, 1820-1865 [vols. 1 & 2 groom; vols. 3 & 4 bride; vols. 5 & 6 groomsman] (Flanary, 1999) [alphabetical]
  • Index to Shelby County Marriages, 1820-1865: Alternate Spellings for Grooms, Brides and Bondsmen, with a Listing of Officiants (Flanary, 1999) [alphabetical sections for groom, bride and bondsman]*
  • Index to Shelby County Wills, 1820-1900 (Cannon, 2000) [alphabetical]
  • Inscriptions From Tombstones, Winchester Cemetery [bound with vol. 4 of Will Books (1830-1867)] (WPA, 1937)
  • List of Deaths in the City of Memphis, May 1848 - Dec. 1859 (WPA, 1936)
  • Marriage Records, 1820-1863 [vol. 1 1820-1858; vol. 2 1858-1863] (WPA, 1936-1937) [name index in each volume]
  • Marriages of Shelby County, Tennessee, 1820-1858 (Whitley, 1982) [name index]*
  • Memphis Birth Records, 1874-1883: with Some Shelby County Birth Records, 1881-1882 (Flanary, 1999) [alphabetical]
  • Memphis/Shelby County Birth Records, 1886-1904: with Some Memphis/Shelby County Birth Records, 1860-1885 (Blaylock, 2000) [alphabetical]
  • Miscellaneous Death Records, Shelby County, 1881-1882 [and] 1902-1914: With Some Bodies Shipped in 1942-1944 [vol. 1 A-Durke; vol. 2 Dunn-Lurdy; vol. 3 Lurenzi-Z] (Cannon, 1999) [alphabetical]
  • Miscellaneous Death Records, Shelby County, 1902-1914, With Some Bodies Shipped 1941-1944 [vol. 1 A-C; vol. 2 D-H; vol. 3 I-M; vol. 4 Mo-Si; vol. 5 Sk-Z] (Cannon, 1999) [alphabetical]
  • Occupant Entry, Book B, Volume 1 [Shelby Co., Tenn.] (West, 1985) [surname index]
  • Polk's Memphis (Shelby County, Tenn.) City Directory (2010 - 2020)
  • Polk's Memphis (Tennessee) City Directory (1928-1932)
  • R. L. Polk & Co.'s Memphis City Directory (1897, 1901, 1910-1911, 1913, 1914-1919, 1922-1927)
  • Shelby Co., Tennessee: Enumeration of Male Inhabitants of Twenty-one Years of Age and Upward, Citizens of Tennessee, January 1, 1891 (Reed, 1989) [name index]
  • Shelby County Death Records: Bodies Shipped Into, Out of, and Through Memphis and Bodies Disinterred, 1883-1902 (Memphis/Shelby County Public Library and Information Center, 1998) [alphabetical]*
  • Shelby County Marriage Records, Book XX, 1870-1886 (Cannon, 1999) [alphabetical sections for bondsman, groom and bride]
  • Shelby County Probate Records [vol. 1 1861-1869; vol. 2 1870-1879; vol. 3 1880-1900] (Memphis and Shelby County Archives, 1995- ) [each volume alphabetical]
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, Alphabetical Index to Probate Papers, 1820-1860 (Memphis and Shelby County Archives, 1993) [alphabetical]
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, Chancery Court Minutes, Book no. 1, 1846-1851 [2 vols.] (WPA, 1938) [name index in vol. 1]
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, Court Minutes, Book 1, 1820-24 (WPA, 1941)
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, Court Minutes vol. 1, 1820-1824 (WPA, 1936) [name index]
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, General Index, Records, Deeds, 1821-[1841] (WPA, 1940) [grouped A-Z by first letter of surname of grantor, then by first letter of of surname of grantee]
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, Marriage Bonds & Licenses, 1850-1865 (Davis, 1983) [alphabetical by groom with bride index]
  • Shelby County Tennessee Marriage Book No. 3 [1864-1865] (WPA, 1937) [name index]
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, Marriage Records, 1819-1850 (Memphis Genealogical Society, 1957) [alphabetical by groom with bride index]
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, Minute Book no.1, 1850-59 (WPA, 1938) [name index]
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, Minutes of Old Circuit Court, no. 2, 1828-36 (WPA, 1937) [surname index]
  • Shelby County, Tennessee Newspaper Abstracts Through 1859 (Rowland, 2002) [name index]*
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, Population Schedules of the United States Census of 1820 (Presley, 1970)
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, Probate Court Minute Book no. 2, 1824-29 (WPA, 1937) [name index]
  • Shelby County, Tennessee, Will Records, C-1, 1830-47 (WPA, 1941) [name index]
  • Shelby County, Tennessee WPA Records [family papers, family bible records, hospital register 1861-1862; etc.] (Douthat, 1993) [name index]*
  • Tennessee, Shelby County, Tombstone Inscriptions, Memphis Memorial Markers (WPA, 1940) [surname index]
  • Tombstone Inscriptions in Bartlett-Ellendale Cemetery, Shelby County, Tennessee (Smith, 2001) [surname index]
  • Tombstone Inscriptions in Older Black Cemeteries, et cetera, in the Bartlett, Tennessee, area (Smith, 2001) [surname index]
  • Will Books [1830-1867] [vol. 1 Jan. 1830-May 1847; vol. 2 June 1847-July 1855; vol. 3 1855-1862; vol. 4 1864-1867 (WPA, 1936-1937) [name index in each volume]


Local Records on Microfilm

An inventory of microfilmed Shelby County records is available on our website.  Individual reels of microfilm may also be purchased.

Earliest records include:

  • marriages from 1820
  • wills from 1820
  • chancery court minutes from 1881
  • county court quorum minutes from 1870
  • tax books from 1849


The following reels are available on interlibrary loan from the Tennessee State Library and Archives:

  • Marriage Index -- 1820-1879 (#99, 1 reel)*
  • Marriage Records -- 1820-1866 (#102, 1 reel)*
  • Probate Record Index -- 1820-1860 (#8, 1 reel)*
  • WPA Records, Shelby County (Record Group #107, Roll 75, 1 reel). Roll includes County Court Minute Book #1 (1820-1824), County Court Minute Book #3, pts. 1 & 2 (1830-1833), County Court Minute Book #4, pts. 1-3 (1833-1843) and County Court Minute Book #5, pts. 1-3 (1843-1848).*
  • WPA Records, Shelby County (Record Group #107, Roll 76, 1 reel). Roll includes County Court Minute Book #6, pts. 1-3 (1848-1851), Old Circuit Court, Minute Book #2 (1828-1836), Probate Court Minute Book #2 (1824-1829) and Shelby County Court Minute Book #1 (1850-1859).*
  • WPA Records, Shelby County (Record Group #107, Roll 77, 1 reel). Roll includes Chancery Court Minute Book #1, pts. 1 & 2 (1846-1851), General Index Records [Deeds] (1821-1870), Will Book #1 (Jan. 1830 - May 1837), Probate Court, Will Record 1-C (1830-1847), Will Book #2D (June 1847 - July 1855), Will Book #3E (1855-1862), List of Deaths in the City of Memphis (May 1858 - Dec. 1859), Marriage Record, Vols. 1-3 (1820-1862, 1864-1865), Will Book #4D [Probate Court] (1864-1867) and Tombstone Inscriptions (undated).*


Newspapers on Microfilm

Newspapers were published in Collierville, Frayser, Germantown, Memphis, Millington, Raleigh and Whitehaven..  A fairly complete run begins in 1843. Microfilms are loaned to Tennessee libraries.  Individual reels may also be purchased.  An Inventory of Newspapers on Microfilm at the Library and Archives is available on our website.


Selected Manuscripts Material
  • Chesapeake, Ohio, and Southwestern Railroad Company vs. Ida B. Wells, 1885  (Microfilm Manuscript #1425, 1 reel)*
  • Clarisse Rogan Journal, 1852-1859  (Microfilm Manuscript #141, 1 reel)*
  • First Congregational Church Records. Memphis, 1909  (Microfilm Manuscript #645, 1 reel)*
  • Francis McGavock Papers, 1784-1854  (Microfilm Manuscript #742, 1 reel)*
  • Gordon and Avery Families Papers, ca. 1800-1945  (Microfilm Manuscript #479, 3 reels)*
  • Jonathan K. T. Smith Collection  (Microfilm Manuscript #1314, 2 reels)*
  • Malcolm Rice Patterson Papers, ca. 1895-1935  (Microfilm Manuscript #1157, 1 reel)*
  • Memphis Civil Clubs - Jackson Boulevard Improvement Club and Rozelle Civic Club, 1927-1939  (Microfilm Manuscript #1825, 1 reel)
  • Memphis / National Funeral Home Records, 1935-1971  (Microfilm Manuscript #1707, 43 reels)*
  • Rhea Family Papers, 1769-1859  (Microfilm Manuscript #792, 1 reel)*
  • Susanne Conlan Scruggs Collection  (Microfilm Manuscript #1826, 1 reel)
  • Wesley Circuit, Methodist Episcopal Church, Memphis Quarterly Conference Minutes, 1826-1865  (Microfilm Manuscript #1085, 1 reel)*
  • Yellow Fever Collection, 1878-1879  (Microfilm Manuscript #1827, 1 reel)
  • Zion Cemetery Burial Register, Memphis, Tennessee, 1896-1974  (Microfilm Manuscript #1714, 1 reel)*

Search for Manuscripts Material in our Catalog 


Census Records
  • Census on microfilm for Shelby County:  1820-1880, 1900-1930
  • State-wide census index:  1820-1880
  • State-wide census index on microfilm  (Soundex):  1880,  1900-1930
  • Shelby County census records in book form:  1820, *1880


Additional Research Aids for Shelby County


* Indicates this title may be borrowed on Interlibrary Loan from the Library and Archies.

Back to Top

Shelby County Formation Act


"An Act to form and establish a new county on the Mississippi River, in the south west corner of this state."

WHEREAS it is represented to this General Assembly, that there are many inhabitants, and much business at and about the Chickasaw Bluff, and that to those people the regular and convenient administration of the laws would be greatly beneficial - wherefore:

SECTION 1. BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, That a new county be called and known by the name of Shelby, in honor and to perpetuate the name of Issac Shelby, late Governor of Kentucky, be, and is hereby established in the southwest corner of this state, and that the county so established, shall be bounded as follows, to wit: beginning in the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi River, where the southern boundary of this state, lately marked by General James Winchester, strikes the western boundary of the state, thence east thirty miles along said southern boundary line to the eighty mile tree, thence north to a point, from which a due west corner to the center of the main channel of the Mississippi, and thence down the main channel of the Mississippi to the beginning will include a constitutional county of six hundred and twenty five square miles.

SECTION 2. BE IT ENACTED, That for the due administration of justice in the said county of Shelby, the courts hereinafter established shall be holden, commencing on the first Monday in May next, and quarterly thereafter, until the end of the next stated General Assembly, at the Chickasaw Bluff, at such house and place therein as a majority of the Justices of the said county shall appoint, and all courts shall be held by commission to the said Justices, in the same manner and under the same rules and restrictions, and shall have and exercise the same powers and jurisdiction as either the county courts, or quorum courts in the respective counties of this state, combining therein, their respective original jurisdictions, and said justices shall also have and hold jurisdiction of all causes out of court that ordinarily belong to justices of the peace.

SECTION 3. BE IT ENACTED, That in all cases, where appeals, writs of error, or other process are allowed, an appeal, writ of error, or other process may and shall be from said courts of Shelby County to the circuit court of Humphreys County, under the same rules and restrictions as are provided by law.

SECTION 4. BE IT ENACTED, That there shall be appointed by joint resolution of both houses of the General Assembly, five justices of said county to be commissioned as aforesaid, who shall have and possess the jurisdiction as specified in this act, of whom three at least shall be necessary to constitute a court, and said justices shall be allowed the usual fees out of court, and the pay for holding court, that is allowed in similar cases by law.

SECTION 5. BE IT ENACTED, That the sheriff of Stuart County, or collector of public taxes or monies due on executions within said county, shall have power to collect the same, in the same manner, as if this act had not passed.

SECTION 6. BE IT ENACTED, That the militia of said county shall be organized and the officers elected, as in other counties, according to the laws now in force and used in this state, and be attached to the fifth brigade.

SECTION 7. BE IT ENACTED, That the court herein before constituted and appointed, are authorized and required to appoint a solicitor to prosecute in behalf of the government, until an attorney general shall be appointed for the circuit, which shall include said county; and in the mean time they are authorized and empowered to make an allowance to said solicitor, out of any county monies for his ex-officio services of any sum not exceeding fifty dollars.


Passed on November 24, 1819

Back to Top

Services Column